1914 – What should we commemorate?

There are some unseemly debates raging about how we should be commemorating the First World War at the time of its centenary and what should be the content. This is not the place for joining in that particular contest.

This website and blog have the simple purpose of recalling the men who served in one particular battalion, those who died or were traumatised physically and psychologically, and their families and the communities from which they came. It fits into the perspective that there were very few families in Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Russia and the other main combatant nations who were not marked by that experience. Some families carried the scars for generations and still do. Grief is still present.

As I have commented in my book, something this personal should not be the subject of a ‘one size fits all’ approach to remembrance. It is not for politicians, academics, ‘experts’, or commercial enterprises to dictate how each of us might choose, or not, to remember the war that was ‘great’ only in size and catastrophic consequence. It was not ‘over by Christmas’, it did not ‘end all wars’: far from it in both instances. For those who lost someone, as remains the case for those with serving soldiers in their families today, it will never be ended.

So, I will say this to those who want to impose some standard set of rules on remembrance. You were wrong in 1919 to bury personal losses under a panoply of centrally controlled, militaristic ceremonial. You have been wrong ever since. Get off our backs. Pack up you flags and bunting. Put your toys away.

We might hope that the centenary provides an opportunity to reflect on all that went wrong and that means might be devised to end all wars, now and forever. I have heard and seen nothing yet to provide any hope of that, least of all from the British Government.

There is perhaps one way to commemorate those who were sacrificed in 1914-1919 that we might all be able to sign up to. STOP THE KILLING – NOW!

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